Will Saturday show a repeat of a similar story that Liverpool fans have become accustomed to seeing this season? After losing to a Leicester City side in the relegation zone on Monday, Liverpool face Arsenal in tomorrow’s late kick-off.
Liverpool are currently in fifth, just a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal and a point above sixth-placed Manchester United. The problem for Liverpool’s fading top four aspirations is that Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United have an extra league game to play due to last weekend’s EFL Cup final. Beating Tottenham Hotspur to close within a point of Mauricio Pochettino’s side was effectively undone by losing on Monday after a Harry Kane hattrick helped to demolish Stoke City.
Although Liverpool can move into the top four by taking all three points tomorrow, further failures against teams such as Burnley and Bournemouth in the games to come will see Liverpool drop further behind their rivals for Champions League qualification. A rousing victory tomorrow is not guaranteed, despite the fact that Jürgen Klopp’s players have not yet tasted defeat against any team in the top seven this season. It is most curious that ahead of a home game against Arsenal, concerns are focused on how a team that can perform in big games have lost to Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Hull City, and Leicester City. Four of those teams started their matches against Liverpool in the relegation zone, but Liverpool have proved to be most accommodating opponents for teams in need.
A greater concern is a complete unraveling in 2017 that needs to be arrested. Liverpool are not guaranteed to beat every big team that visits Anfield, but this could be a fine opportunity to sow further doubts over the future of Arsène Wenger. Wenger has done much for Arsenal, but Klopp’s players must ruthlessly try to expose familiar failings in big games as they did at the Emirates to win the opening game of the season. Any worries about tactics and mentality that were brutally exposed against the defending champions should be best saved for Burnley, but Liverpool simply have to beat a second North London club at Anfield.
Clyne, Matip, Only Fowler Knows, Milner
Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum
Mané, Firmino, Coutinho
Dejan Lovren has returned to training after missing the last three league games with a knee injury, and despite the concerns surrounding his reliability as a long-term partner to Joël Matip, his return to the side would be welcome. Lucas Leiva is not a centre back, and unfortunately for fans of the long-serving Brazilian, he no longer possesses the physicality or capability to even feature in midfield. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will miss out with that persistent foot injury, and so, Emre Can should start once again.
Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Özil, and Aaron Ramsey are all doubts for the visitors, but Santi Cazorla has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Mohamed Elneny posted a picture of a protective boot he's wearing, which clearly rules him out for a number of games. Wenger may decide to start Danny Welbeck, a player who is quite effective in big games, against a team that demands opposition players to work hard on and off the ball. That, however, may also be a concern for a player who has had serious injuries in recent years.
A win would give Liverpool yet another opportunity to start again as well as directly affect a rival for a top four berth. Simply put, there is little room for further setbacks.
Kickoff is set for 5.30PM GMT/12.30PM EST tomorrow on BT Sport 1 in the UK. Elsewhere, Optus Sport in Australia, Sportsnet in Canada, Star Sports Select HD2 in India, Supersport3 Africa in Kenya, Astro Supersport 3 in Malaysia, and NBC in the US are carrying the match. You can find full listings at LivesoccerTV.
We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.